Given the pattern of the cable news cycle, you might think that events in Ukraine had pretty much ceased to be of interest were it not for the downed airliner. To be fair, Israel is the hot news of the moment and, aside from the plane investigation, there haven’t been that many huge developments on the Russian border. But that would clearly change if the Russians launched a serious military invasion over the border. Rick Moran wonders if recent moves by Putin’s forces indicate that this is just what’s about to happen.

Let’s put it this way: Russia appears to have the capability to invade Ukraine any time it wishes. The forces are in place, the tanks are gassed up, the only thing apparently missing is the “Go” code from Vladimir Putin. And that could come this weekend, next weekemd – or never.

Rick is looking at the analysis of James Miller, who sees more than defensive measures on the part of the Russians.

Right now Russia is moving troops, armor, and advanced antiaircraft missiles toward the border with Ukraine. In the last 48 hours, dozens of videos have been uploaded to social-media sites that show Russian armor very close to the border, many of them confirmed to be within mere kilometers of Ukraine.

On Thursday, my team at The Interpreter definitively geolocated Russian armor only 2,000 meters (and closing) from the border and a Buk, the same type of missile that likely took down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, only a few hours from being within range of Ukraine’s air force. Columns of tanks, marked with the same painted numbers and flat, pale-green paint we’ve seen in Ukraine since (at least) June 20th, were spotted moving en masse toward a key border crossing. Some Ukrainian journalists are reporting that at least some of this armor has already crossed the border.

Is it just precautionary or is Putin really getting ready to make a move? Tough to say at this point, really, and our previous efforts at either reading Putin’s mind or looking into his soul haven’t worked out all that well. I suppose it’s possible, since Vlad doesn’t seem to be terribly concerned with anything that Barack Obama says or does, and sanctions thus far don’t seem to have spurred much action from him aside from hastening some business deals with China.

But events in the rest of the world are not static, and Putin is surely aware of that. First of all, Ukraine might not be as much of a pushover as they appeared just a few months ago. Time is reporting that their military ranks have swelled and their fighting force has become more formidable in an impressively short period of time. Also, those sanctions might become more of a pressing issue if they continue to expand, with Japan being the latest nation to look at a serious financial strike against Moscow.

Russia isn’t entirely isolated yet, and some of the traditional bad actors on the world stage will continue to support them in spirit, even if they can’t offer much in the way of substance. (Think Iran, Syria, North Korea and others.) But if the economic crunch is growing to the point where they really feel the pinch and a quick victory in Ukraine is no longer assured, I get the sense that Putin won’t risk a black eye on a gambit that might fail.